Combining world-class entertainment and a message of animal conservation is no easy job. Considering that over 1,700 specimens of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians live among Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s thousands of visiting guests, you could say that it is an elephantine task! However, that is exactly what the team of cast members and animal experts at Walt Disney World do on a daily basis at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which is celebrating it’s ‘sweet 16’ birthday today!
Animal Kingdom is all about creating the mood of discovery, so join us as we explore some of the small details and little-known facts about this wild, wild kingdom:
The Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is a beautiful engineering feat, and serves as a reminder that nature has always been and will always be the primary source of life for mankind. The tree is 145-feet tall, took over two years to construct, and features over 300 different carvings of animals hidden among the leaves and branches.The final design for the Tree of Life was based off of a bonsai tree that the design team saw at the International Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot.
Come On and Safari With Me!
Kilimanjaro Safaris is one of our favorite attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Guests have a unique opportunity to see animals in an incredibly real setting: their actual homes! At over 100 acres, the attraction is almost the same size as the entire Magic Kingdom Park, and was built (or should we say planted) from scratch years before the park opened to allow for the natural growth of plant life.
Where it’s not possible to avoid the construction of tall buildings and structures, Walt Disney Imagineering has employed “masking” in the form of trees and brush, some of which are planted backstage to imply extended park boundaries. One particular stem of bamboo found in Discovery Island actually derives from a tree that was originally planted in Anaheim, California prior to Disneyland Park’s opening in 1955!
Has your job ever taken you to the indigenous villages of Nepal? Many of the props found at Animal Kingdom were gathered while Imagineers conducted research throughout Asia and Africa. The design of the Yeti from Expedition Everest was based off of first-hand accounts that the researchers gathered from the people of Tibet, Nepal, India, and China.
When researching, it was important for the designers to not only observe what a location looks like, but also what it feels like to be there. Part of their job is to create experiences, and it takes a harmonious balance of props, sounds, lighting, and smells to get there.
Look up. Look Down. Actually, No — Look Everywhere.
You might want to watch where you’re walking; themed paving is an important detail that is often overlooked by Guests. Bicycle tracks and footprints can be found in Asia, while tire marks and even dinosaur prints can be found in Dino Land USA. All had to be meticulously constructed to withstand the massive amount of foot traffic, weather, and parades that all occur at the park.
Even when looking at the textures and colors of the walls at your favorite park eatery, you can see that the tiniest of details are well thought out. Another example is the clashing difference between the relatively barren parking lot and the overwhelming plant life found inside the park. The difference between the spaces ensures that the immersion into nature once you enter the gates is especially impactful.
These small details are part of Animal Kingdom’s story. It’s a story that inspires conservation, preservation, and an appreciation of nature and the world around us, and one that we’re always happy to hear again.
Happy Birthday, Animal Kingdom!